Praise Be To Foley, Vegas Golden Knights Hockey Website

On Paper, VGK Have The Answers For However Oilers Deploy McDavid And Draisaitl

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft has a decision to make each and every time he sends the best player in the world over the boards for a regular shift.

When Connor McDavid steps on the ice, does he put Leon Draisaitl out there with him or not?

Early in the series against the Kings, Woodcroft chose to keep his two biggest weapons separate in an attempt to offset the two excellent defensive centers on the other side. It didn’t work. The Oilers fell into a 2-1 series hole and appeared they were going to be down 3-1. That’s when the Oilers bench boss opted to load up his top line and play McDavid and Draisaitl together. From there, the series shifted and the Oilers not only came back from a 3-0 hole in Game 4, but they went on to win Games 5 and 6 and never trailed in either game.

The decision radically changes the makeup of the Oilers’ lineup which is why all eyes will be on how Woodcroft chooses to open up the series in Game 1.

The good news for the Golden Knights is they should have an answer either way. The current setup Vegas has been deploying should give them a great chance at defending the pair when separated and it will offer matchup advantages when both are off the ice. Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, and Nic Roy can all be trusted to hold their own against either McDavid or Draisaitl and the complementary wingers should be able to pitch in enough to offer not only defensive resistance but also a potent attack.

Defensively it gets tricky when the dynamic duo is separated. Throughout the season, and even more so in Round 1, the Golden Knights leaned heavily on Alex Pietrangelo to share the ice with the opposition’s best players. Pietrangelo spent more than 75 of his 91 even-strength minutes against members of the Jets’ first and second lines. The challenge with Edmonton is that there are two elite centers to defend and only one Alex Pietrangelo.

If Woodcraft separates Draisaitl and McDavid, either VGK’s second pair (McNabb-Theodore) or third pair (Hague-Whitecloud) will be out there consistently against one of the big two. In Round 1, it worked out for the Golden Knights as the Jets top-six were able to muster up just one goal against VGK’s non-Pietrangelo defense pairs. But, McDavid and Draisaitl are a little different than Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mark Scheifele (or Vlad Namestnikov when Scheifele got hurt).

All of this means it’s likely Woodcroft opts to fire them off together plenty of times during the upcoming series. When he does, Bruce Cassidy will have to counter with a shift in his lines as well.

The balanced VGK lineup certainly seems under equipped to handled them both together. The Howden-Stephenson-Stone line would appear to have the best chance, with Amadio-Karlsson-Smith right behind, but there are definitely better options if Vegas counters by loading up its own lineup.

Eichel, Stephenson, and Stone have a long history of not only being dominant offensively together, but also defensively. That would leave The Misfits to play together, and they’ve had success historically against McDavid and Draisaitl, as they have against pretty much everyone in the NHL.

Either line could then be coupled with Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez and the Golden Knights should be well-equipped to defend two of the league’s best scorers. In addition, the moment McDavid and Draisaitl step off the ice, Cassidy could send out the other top-six line and pair them with Theodore.

For Vegas, this will all be much easier to make happen in the home games when they have last change. On the road, it certainly gets much more difficult as Woodcroft will be able to pick and choose his spots better.

Nonetheless, the healthy lineup the Golden Knights are set to dress for Game 1 of the series has plenty of options which means they should have answers to any and all questions the top-heavy Oilers will ask.


Tale Of The Tape: How The Golden Knights Stack Up Against The Edmonton Oilers

Next Podcast #292: Round Two – Edmonton Oilers


  1. GWNorth

    Good article. The problem LA ran into was with the Oilers going with 11 forwards and 7 defenseman, This allowed both Draisaitl and McDavid to take turns centering the 4th line, which suddenly wasn’t a 4th line anymore. With Janmark returning they may go back to dressing 12 forwards again, but that doesnt mean they wont take turns double shifting McDavid and Draisaitl on different lines.

  2. Jailbird

    This will be one tuff series to win. But if we play as we should,we can beat these guys. I would imagine a 6-7 game series. We have a better balanced team, they have an amazing offense and PP. buckle up!

  3. I like the fact the world thinks the oilers are the IT team and have been installed as sizable favorites to win the series, athletes and teams respond better when they think they have been slighted, puts a chip on their shoulders. Play good… play smart and our chances to advance is within our reach.

  4. Shelley

    Considering no one has managed to hold Draisaitl or McDavid down and the kings had two higher calibre defensive centres, it’s slightly surprising to think the Knights will “have the answer either way”

    They have a combined 48 points in 37 games, which is maybe slightly below their usual levels but still very good stats.

    Defensively for sure Vegas are the better team but since the trade deadline it’s been almost a wash.

    If vegas try and play defensive and catch oilers like the kings did they will lose, they have more high end talent than the kings so need to play a more offensive game and can forecheck for their chances. Can attack the second and third lines of the oilers and create mismatches.

    The notions that the oilers rely on 2 players only and are a Power play team are massively incorrect.

    Looking at the odds for the series, it’s probably fair and it should be a good one.

    • Satan

      Satan liked your analysis Shelley. VGK are in tough!

      I hope you will be commenting after the first game as well.

      Satan has spoken

  5. Shelley

    Wondering where my comment has gone?

  6. Emmanuel

    If the Oil load up both on the same line who checks Draisaital on the wing? What if he lines up at RW? Which Vegas LW checks him?

    The good news is a Nuge/Kane 2nd line drops in quality without McD & Draisaital.

    Also if the big 2 keep C the 4th line they will eventually burn out, but that may benefit another team down the line.

    Im convinced the series will come down to matchups, coaching and home ice.

  7. THE hockey GOD

    they play on ice
    not paper.
    Good ice
    bad ice
    slick ice
    slush ice
    and just plain ice.

    • knights fan in minny

      how about ice in my cocktail

      • THE hockey GOD

        just as long as it’s not yellow ice, or yellow snow; knock yourself out.

  8. THE hockey GOD

    Earlier this month, House Republicans passed a bill that would prevent transgender girls from joining school-based sports teams designated for women. Transgender rights have emerged as a top culture war issue for many Republican voters.

    As Greene’s interaction with Weingarten came to an end, the lawmaker returned to her claim that the union leader is not a true mother. “People like you need to admit that you’re just a political activist, not a teacher, not a mother, not a medical doctor,” she said .

    Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to have her attacks on Weingarten stricken from the Congressional Record, but Wenstrup said House rules would not permit him to do so.

  9. THE hockey GOD

    Picking up the pieces of my sweet shattered dream
    I wonder how the old folks are tonight?
    Her name was Ann
    And I’ll be damned if I recall her face
    She left me not knowing what to do
    Carefree highway
    Let me slip away on you
    Carefree highway
    You’ve seen better days
    The morning after blues
    From my head down to my shoes
    Carefree highway
    Let me slip away, slip away on you
    Turning back the pages to the times I love best
    I wonder if she’ll ever do the same?
    Now the thing that I call living
    Is just being satisfied
    With knowing I got no one left to blame
    Carefree highway
    I’ve got to see you my old flame
    Carefree highway
    You’ve seen better days
    The morning after blues
    From my head down to my shoes
    Carefree highway
    Let me slip away, slip away on you
    Searching through the fragments
    Of my dream shattered sleep
    I wonder if the years have closed her mind?
    I guess it must be wanderlust or trying to get free
    From the good old faithful feeling we once knew
    Carefree highway
    Let me slip away on you
    Carefree highway
    You’ve seen the better days
    The morning after blues
    From my head down to my shoes
    Carefree highway
    Let me slip away, slip away on you
    Let me slip away on you
    Carefree highway
    I’ve got to see you my old flame
    Carefree highway
    You’ve seen better days
    The morning after blues
    From my head down to my shoes
    Carefree highway
    Let me slip away, slip away on you

    RIP Gordon

  10. THE hockey GOD

    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
    The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
    When the skies of November turn gloomy
    With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
    Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
    That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
    When the gales of November came early
    The ship was the pride of the American side
    Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
    As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
    With a crew and good captain well seasoned
    Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
    When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
    And later that night when the ship’s bell rang
    Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?
    The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
    And a wave broke over the railing
    And every man knew, as the captain did too
    T’was the witch of November come stealin’
    The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
    When the gales of November came slashin’
    When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain
    In the face of a hurricane west wind
    When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin’
    “Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya”
    At seven PM, a main hatchway caved in, he said
    “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya”
    The captain wired in he had water comin’ in
    And the good ship and crew was in peril
    And later that night when his lights went outta sight
    Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
    Does any one know where the love of God goes
    When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
    The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
    If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her
    They might have split up or they might have capsized
    They may have broke deep and took water
    And all that remains is the faces and the names
    Of the wives and the sons and the daughters
    Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
    In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
    Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams
    The islands and bays are for sportsmen
    And farther below Lake Ontario
    Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
    And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
    With the gales of November remembered
    In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
    In the maritime sailors’ cathedral
    The church bell chimed ’til it rang twenty-nine times
    For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
    Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
    When the gales of November come early

    • TS

      Ahhh, Bruce Hornsby…one of his best…great storyteller…

      • THE hockey GOD

        Gordon Lightfoot, “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” singer, dies at age 84. Gordon Lightfoot, Canada’s legendary folk singer-songwriter whose hits including “Early Morning Rain” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” told a tale of Canadian identity that was exported worldwide, died on Monday. He was 84.

      • TS

        I was just gonna correct myself!” Was it he who sang ‘Sundown’,, or Hornsby? Like both artists…

        • TS

          Sundown= Lightfoot.just listened to a few of his songs.
          Hornsby wrote about the struggles of the Native Americans…

  11. So VGK comes in first in their division…comes in first in their conference to earn the top seed…and then when push comes to shove..they dont play the team with the least amount of points in the next round…that is the reward for finishing on top?..besides home ice advantage which in hockey is never an end all!!!

  12. TS

    I went to Tuesday practice, a LOT of PP drills…5 on 4, 5 on 3. Focus definitely on the PP.
    The guys were in great spirits, BTW! Today’s 1st game should be a barn- burner!! GO KNIGHTS!!

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